FOX Sports Exclusive
Eli or Peyton? You pick the Manning
It will go down as the most dramatic Championship Sunday ever.
The Ravens choke.
Eli again shows he is more clutch than Peyton.
The Giants do something special.
We are all over the insanity, SCHEIN 9 style.
1. The monologue
We spent last week rightly gushing about the San Francisco 49ers' special teams. All season long, they had, without question, the best special teams in the NFL. They had the best punter and kicker and excellent return units.
Who knew that Ted Ginn Jr. being injured and inactive would prove to be the turning point in the loss to the Giants?
BUILDUP TO INDY
- Super Bowl XLVI: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday
- Manning family vs. Brady
- Super Bowl Cheat Sheet
- Patriots' Kraft still hurting
- Belichick needs to secure legacy
- Billick's matchups and storylines
- Jacobs savors another Super Bowl
- Eli's leap could come in Peyton's place
- Super Bowl odds a mix of science, art
- Giants linebacker a true inspiration
- Ochocinco has 86'd 'me' attitude
- Reason for Giants' turnaround
- Giants' Coughlin forging a legacy
- High price of the Super Bowl
- Not about Boston vs. New York
- Picks, predictions
By now you know the difference-making gaffes. Fill-in returner Kyle Williams had two turnovers, one in the fourth quarter setting up a Giants touchdown and another in overtime setting up the game-winning field goal to propel the Giants to the Super Bowl and bury the Niners. In a game dominated by defense, it isn't hyperbole to focus on these two flubs as the game-changers. It also isn't exaggeration to think Ginn protects the ball.
Perhaps, lost in the shuffle is the amazing fact that it was the Giants who took advantage and made the plays on special teams, a key turnaround from last year's disappointing season. Credit special teams coach Tom Quinn and, of course, head coach Tom Coughlin.
Steve Weatherford had a strong season punting for the Giants. And it was Weatherford, holding for Lawrence Tynes, who rescued an errant snap to put Tynes in position to kick the game-winner. And don't minimize Tynes kicking the Giants, once again, to the Super Bowl. We saw in the AFC that there is no such thing as an automatic field goal.
It was the young linebacker Juquan Williams who forced the fumble in overtime. It was Devin Thomas who recovered the loose ball, the same Thomas who fell on the pigskin after it bounced off of Williams in the fourth quarter. After the game, Coughlin told the media he felt like a player or two who were under the radar would decide a game deliciously dominated by incredible, bone-crushing defense.
It was a special Sunday in so many ways for the Giants. Winning the battle on special teams was a true shocker and is the real reason the Giants are still playing.
2. Elite, tough and best in the family?
We've documented how great Eli Manning's been this season, backing up the talk that he's genuinely one of the best in the business.
But when it was time for Eli to make a play on a 3rd-and-15 on the ensuing Giants drive after Williams' fourth quarter fumble, he drilled a bullet into Mario Manningham's arms for a touchdown, capitalizing to the fullest on the turnover.
That's Eli Manning. That's what makes him clutch. And elite.
Ask yourself this question . . .
While Peyton Manning is on the "Mt. Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks," who would you rather have in their prime in a big, pressure-cooker spot?
Eli has been better in the big game. The winning percentage in the postseason shows that. The eyeball test speaks volumes. Do you want to compare games against the Patriots? Fourth-quarter stats?
And I predict he will have one more ring than big bro in a few weeks.
3. Amateur Hour
How convinced was Patriots corner Sterling Moore that Billy Cundiff was going to tie the AFC title game with an easy kick? Moore told us Monday on the SiriusXM Blitz, "I wasn't watching the kick. I was getting Gatorade and getting ready for overtime."
Wow. And why not. That should've been simple.
Moore needed to replenish after his work on the final drive. Flacco threw a strike to Lee Evans for what seemed to be a sure-fire touchdown. Evans should've caught the ball, squeezing it in, even when Moore closed in and got a hand on it. Moore disagreed with my take that Evans should've hauled it in. He told us, "I definitely got my hand in and knocked it away." He did, but Evans has to make that catch.
What a brutal and unfathomable way for the Ravens to lose the title game on a day they outplayed the Pats.
4. Backseat coaching
I know I'm in the minority but I don't care. I know Cundiff's stats on kicks beyond 50 yards. I also don't care. When you are down three points with under three minutes to go in the AFC title game and you are playing Tom Brady, you attempt the 51-yard field goal. That's the call.
In a couple of months, I'd love to ask Cundiff if his confidence was shaken for the chip shot by John Harbaugh going for it on fourth down and eschewing the field goal.
5. Upon further review
I think the calls for the replay booth to look at Lee Evans' drop are foolish. It wasn't a catch. He didn't have control and both feet down. The refs got it right. Move on.
I personally thought Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled. If they called a fumble, the Giants wouldn't have complained. But I credit Ed Hochuli. He blew the whistle and was decisive in the era of player safety. I would've let them play. But I can't kill the refs for being swift.
6. Can't make it up
I voted Jim Harbaugh coach of the year. He did an incredible job this season. And I know losses are hard on him. But Williams showed more class in defeat than Harbaugh. That needs to change. That's unacceptable.
7. My guys
Coughlin: I wrote last week that he has surpassed Bill Parcells as the best Giants coach in the modern era. If he wins another Super Bowl, when you consider his accomplishments in New York and Jacksonville, you might want to reserve a date in Canton.
Moore: Not bad for a rookie who started this year in Oakland.
Justin Smith: He was once again physical, nasty and the pulse of the Niners defense that stymied the Giants' run and pounded Eli.
Victor Cruz: His excellent first half gave the Giants life and confidence.
Joe Flacco: Ed Reed ripped him in this space last week. He outplayed Tom Brady.
8. My goats
Williams: His gaffes flattened the Niners' chances.
Anyone who threatened Williams on Twitter: You people are sick and have deep problems.
Billy Cundiff: That can't happen. And if you were rushed — if the scoreboard flashed third down — call a timeout!
Lee Evans: Moore made a play. You had to make the catch.
Joe Flacco: Compare his comments about his future in Baltimore to that of free-agent-to-be Drew Brees. Flacco doesn't understand how to be a professional with the media and endear himself to teammates and fans.
9. Three nuggets of wisdom
• Tom Brady is right. He didn't play well. I was stunned how rattled Brady looked. The interception into double coverage, to Matt Slater of all people, was gruesome. The Giants' pass rush is nasty. Brady must play better for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. I'm stunned the Giants are dogs in this game. Does Vegas remember the Giants beat New England this year when Hakeem Nicks and Bradshaw were hurt?
• I had an amazing time watching the Niners and Giants at "The 'Stick." The San Fran fans are incredible. The stadium, however, is an absolute dump. The Niners can't get to Santa Clara fast enough.
• The Niners are built for long-term success. The defense is incredible. I believe the 49ers can get to a Super Bowl with Alex Smith if they get a true No. 1 receiver.
More Stories From Adam Schein